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An innovative axial turbine for conversion of hydro-kinetics energy to electricity in rivers and canals

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - HyKinetics (An innovative axial turbine for conversion of hydro-kinetics energy to electricity in rivers and canals)

Reporting period: 2022-01-01 to 2023-06-30

Hydropower is an essential service, now and in the future. Despite slowed capacity growth, hydropower generation increased by 2.5% in 2019, and continues to be the world’s largest source of renewable electricity with multiple non-power benefits. According to recent findings, there is now more than 1,300 GW of installed hydropower capacity globally. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)’s Global Renewables Outlook 2020, this figure will need to grow by around 60% by 2050 to help limit the rise in global temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Such growth would generate some 600,000 skilled jobs over the coming decade according to the same IRENA.
The global small hydropower market size was valued at $ 2.98 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.0% from 2020-2027 (Grand View Research). Market growth will have as key drivers: financial investments, rural electrification, and policy initiatives in small hydropower projects in response to climate change. Small hydropower (SHP) generation is a method to generate electricity that uses moving water to produce electricity. These plants are mainly installed in the existing water supply network or small streams, and rivers and have a negligible ecological impact on the environment. Small plants can either be grid-connected and off-grid, primarily fitting situations where grid connectivity is not present.
Technologies able to exploit kinetic energy of flowing waters in rivers for small and distributed renewable energy generation have a huge potential, focusing the attention on mini-hydro and micro-hydro, only few niche applications have been tested on the field but no solutions have been accepted by the market.
To seize this opportunity in the hydropower market, COSBI has developed HyKinetics, a zero-head and highly efficient patented turbine, designed and manufactured to be the first cost-competitive and sustainable solution which does not need for falls or dams. The proposed innovation lies in a micro-HP generator, i.e. within a range 5- 100 kW nominal power, specifically designed for applications in all types of canals to exploit the hydro-kinetics energy of the water flowing in zero-head installations. This is expected to generate a highly profitable LCOE while having almost zero landscape impact. The hydro-power turbine module is characterized by a new shape of the blades, allowing for a low cut-in speed of the water (1 m/s) and enhancing the turbine’s yearly productivity; the new solution is also provided with an innovative control system and an automatic lifting system capable to adjust the working quota of the turbines respect to the water levels, allowing for an automatic safety positioning of the turbine in case of alerts.
The potential and acceptance of this market segment has been demonstrated by means of a Customer Validation methodology (discussion and agreements with big players owners of large hydropower plants).
The HyKinetics project thus aims to: 1) manufacture 5 HyKinetics prototypes (Minimum Viable Product); 2) install and validate the prototypes in selected demo sites; 3) obtain the certifications needed for commercial use and optimize the industrial production processes to lower production costs; 4) increase market awareness and demonstrate results to potential clients for product launch just after the project.
During the third reporting period of the Action, COSBI conducted the following activities achieving relevant results:
- In WP2, the beneficiary performed the complete manufacturing of the planned HyKinetics prototypes;
- In WP3, the installed prototypes have been tested, and the collected field data on their functioning and performance allowed COSBI to conduct a tech-econ assessment of the technology;
- In WP4, a full report on the supply chain and the plan for HyKinetics industrialization were delivered;
- In WP5, the stakeholders and customers’ engagement work launched in Year 1 was prosecuted, resulting in new, significant opportunities to gather customers and launch the HyKinetics product in the Italian and EU markets.
- WP6 was devoted to a close monitoring of the technical tasks as well as to an overall legal, financial and contractual management of the Action, with particular focus on risk management.
The global hydropower market, by type, can be segmented in mini-hydropower and micro hydropower: the first, micro-HP, dominated the market and accounted for 57.6% share in 2019 and is expected to maintain its lead in the future. Micro hydropower projects range from 5 kW - 100 kW that can provide power for a rural industry or small community in remote areas away from the grid area. Generally, the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) ranges between $ 0.02-0.10/kWh for a number of small-HP projects in emerging countries, which makes them a very cost viable option to supply electricity to the off-grid or grid rural electrification schemes. Micro-HP projects can have higher costs than mini-HP ones, and can have a LCOE of $ 0.27/kWh.
While high-head (>15 m) large-power (>10 MW) technologies are well-established and widely applied, technologies able to exploit zero or low head kinetic energy of flowing waters with small and distributed power generation have not reached commercial application.
The segments that COSBI intends to approach are the installation in dam-based hydroelectric power stations, and the rural electrification, i.e. the process of bringing electrical power to rural and remote areas where electrical grid is not available (COSBI will face this sector after the first market uptake, when HyKinetics technology reliability will be demonstrated in large-HP plants facilities application).
HyKinetics Plant